Vicchio pulls out all the stops

Goalie steps to forefront, leads Georgetown women into national title game

College Lacrosse

May 19, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

For most of her college career, Georgetown women's lacrosse goalie Chandler Vicchio played the understudy.

Waiting in the wings, she watched Bowen Holden perform the starring role for three years, earning All-America status twice and national Goalkeeper of the Year honors last season.

Vicchio, like any good understudy, used the rehearsal time to hone her skills, filling in when necessary and prepping for the day when the star would depart.

When her turn came, Vicchio was ready for the spotlight.

"It wasn't my original plan, but it ended up being such a good experience," said Vicchio, a four-year starter at Mount de Sales. "Bowen ended up being one of my best friends. I learned so much from watching her and I grew a lot. I became a much better player than I ever would have if Bowen had never come to Georgetown."

After playing in 24 games her first three seasons, Vicchio stepped into the starting role in March and filled Holden's shoes better than anyone expected.

"I almost don't have words for what Chandler has done this year," said Georgetown coach Kim Simons. "I'm not surprised she's a good goalie, but she's developed to be one of the best goalies in the country, and she is so clutch."

Vicchio heads into today's NCAA Division I national championship game against Princeton's high-powered, multi-tiered attack with a 7.53 goals-against average. More impressive, however, has been her performance in the past two tournament games.

Against Duke in the quarterfinals, she made 12 saves to give the top-seeded Hoyas a surprisingly easy 12-4 victory. In Friday night's 12-10 overtime victory over Cornell - a game the Big Red tied five times but never led -she made 10 saves, many at critical points.

"There were shots that if she didn't do exactly what she was supposed to do, they would have gone in," Simons said. "She is that smart, and she is that good. There were a couple points in the second half where Cornell could have gone ahead and the fact that we never let that happen was [because] Chandler had a couple huge, almost one-on-none saves in a row."

Handling the pressure doesn't seem all that difficult anymore for Vicchio, who started a couple of games last year when Holden was sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The same self-assured, easygoing demeanor that enabled her to wait patiently until Holden graduated comes through in her performance in the crease.

Even when Cornell scored a one-on-one transition goal with 17 seconds left to force overtime Friday night, Vicchio kept her composure.

"She doesn't panic. She's really steady," said her high school coach, Mary Gagnon. "Her priorities are in order, and that's key for a goalie. Just like that fast-break goal they scored on her [Friday]. She was calm about things."

Vicchio comes from a lacrosse family. Her father, Rocco Vicchio, is an assistant coach for the UMBC men's team and her brother Josh, 24, played lacrosse at UMBC and now coaches at Mount St. Joseph. But she didn't embrace the game until middle school, and she ended up a goalie by accident.

As an eighth-grader, she filled in for a teammate and caught the eye of former Mount de Sales coach Bill Held. The next year, she was starting in goal.

Today, she'll end her career in the national championship game. Win or lose, she will be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy one terrific year - another one that she has shared with Holden, now a Hoyas assistant coach.

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